Malta Maritime Authority discusses tanker safety
The tanker Moscoviski, which was expelled from Spanish waters because it is old and has a single-hull, was certified
by a Spanish authority on 30 October, Transport Minister Censu Galea said. The minister also announced that the
Byzantio, the ship boarded by Greenpeace activists in Estonia, also because it is old and has a single-hull, has just
been certified and given the highest certificate possible.
The minister was speaking during the discussion in parliament on the estimates of the Malta Maritime Authority.
The current international controversy surrounding the huge oil spill off the Spanish coast, following the break-up of
the Prestige, has involved Malta’s name being mentioned quite often and action has been unilaterally taken
against ships bearing the Maltese flag, as in the case of the Byzantio and the Moscoviski.
But Mr Galea would not hear of any criticism against the ship registration systems in Malta and he defended Maltese ship registration. “People who write about such matters should first check facts with the MMA. Those who criticise MMA ship registration do so out of jealousy,” he said.
Mr Galea pointed out some misconceptions on the theme: “Double-hulled tankers came into being as late as 1992
and consequently single-hull tankers are still used throughout the world. No international organisation has ruled out
their use so far and they still operate on the oceans. The International Maritime Organisation decided only a year
ago that single-hull ships will not be used after 2015. Malta has, as far back as 1990, signified its determination
to obey this deadline and it will not ask for an extension as regards the ships under the Maltese flag.”
There has also been a low detention level of Maltese-flagged ships. Labour MP Jose Herrera said the ship registration directorate saw its turnover decrease from Lm 1.8 mm to Lm 1.6 mm, and yet the staff costs and salaries in the directorate were increased by Lm 120,000.
Dr Herrera said the law on ship registration was upgradedlast year and is now more compliant with European Union
legislation. However, this legal framework is still more attractive than that of other countries. But once Malta
joins the EU, this advantage will be lost.
He explained that companies registering ships in Malta do not have to disclose their interests and send their returns as companies. But the EU is insisting on a full declaration of interests and full disclosure, not only of the ship ownership but also of the mother company. This also engenders a more bureaucratic compliance.
Dr Herrera said he knows these are the advantages for Greek companies to register their ships in Malta -- 80 % of
Maltese-flagged ships are Greek-owned. Malta can still preserve this advantage, but once in the EU, the only way
would be for the ship-owning companies to register outside Malta. In this case, Malta will still lose out.
Labour MP Joe Debono Grech said the MMA obeyed all legislation but is still criticised. All other countries have unserviceable ships. The ship Erika fell through because its hirer refused inspection from Malta.
Mr Galea said with Malta and Cyprus in the EU it will have the biggest ship registration in the world. Discussion
also reviewed yachting facilities. Mr Galea said 1,026 yachts have berths in Malta, while 300 are on the waiting
list. There are also yacht marinas at the Hilton, Manoel Island and soon at Cottonera.
Dr Herrera said there are no facilities for super yachts in Malta and these are enticed to Tunisian ports. Labour MP Noel Farrugia said this government has lost the possibility of investment on yachts. Mr Galea said Xemxija has already been identified as the next yacht centre, apart from Manoel Island and Cottonera.
As regards the work at Cirkewwa and Mgarr, Mr Galea said the permits were issued in May 2000 and therefore Opposition
leader Alfred Sant’s claim that the project is four years late cannot be true. This is a Lm 13 mm project,
which will be completed by the end of 2003. The foundations are being laid for the Mgarr terminal and work on the
Cirkewwa terminal will begin next year.
Mr Debono Grech blamed the Planning Authority for the delays he encountered on the Cirkewwa project. He then asked what will happen to port workers inside the EU. Mr Galea replied that the chapter regarding port workers has long been closed in the accession negotiations and the conditions of port workers have not been changed: “there will be no job losses.”
Mr Galea highlighted the 100,000 increase in cruise liner passengers, which has now reached an annual figure of 402,000. There is still a lot to do in this regard, and the fly-cruise business has not yet picked up in Malta.